Constitutions and Candidates
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The constitutions of the USA and of many US States recognize that we have fundamental moral rights even if not listed in the documents. The constitution of a country and its states or provinces set the limits of government power. But how many candidates for office have read these constitutions, and how many understand their provisions respecting our rights?
The Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution states: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This recognizes that we have rights that exist prior to and apart from the Constitution. There are moral or human or natural rights which the Constitution recognizes, and therefore protects. It would be useless to recognize, for example, a right to travel, and then allow laws to be passed that arbitrarily restrict travel.
Many U.S. States have similar provisions. Article I, Section 24, of the Constitution of the State of California lists some rights and then states, "This declaration of rights may not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people." So both the U.S. and California constitutions constrain the government of California from violating the moral rights of the people.
What are these moral rights? These are human rights that all people have. Logically, they must derive from a morality that transcends any particular government, culture, or religion. The origin of human rights must be in what people have in common, our human nature. The philosopher John Locke recognized two basic aspects of human nature that creates a "law of nature" or natural moral law: our biological independence and our moral equality. We think and feel as independent beings, and human biology has no inherent superior or inferior classes.
The mental independence of each person makes values subjective to the individual, since there is no authority that can dictate for everyone what values should be. Our equality gives our values an equal moral standing. From these premises there follows an ethic that is universal to humanity. The universal ethic has three basic rules:
There is therefore a moral right to do whatever does not coercively harm others, and a moral right to be free from such invasions. These are the "other" rights recognized by the US and other constitutions. Therefore, it violates these constitutions to enact laws that prohibit acts that have no victims. Anything we do that is peaceful and honest should be unrestricted, including having no governmentally-imposed arbitrary cost, such as a tax.
- An act is morally good if it is a welcomed benefit to others.
- An act is morally evil if and only if it is an invasion into the domain of another.
- All other acts are morally neutral.
But how many government office holders understand the constitutions that authorize their legislation? Unfortunately, extremely few. So Congress, parliaments, legislatures, county boards, and city councils ubiquitously pass laws that create rather than protect victims. Governments pass laws prohibiting gambling, banning some drugs, restricting travel, dictating dress codes, censoring expression, constraining enterprise, waging needless aggressive wars, and imposing arbitrary taxation on everything that moves. Government, allegedly set up to protect our rights and liberties, becomes the greatest moral violator.
A complete implementation of natural moral law and protection of our natural rights would avoid any restriction on peaceful and honest action, even if it offends others, so long as it is not a forceful invasion into another's proper domain of ownership. There would be no tax on income, sales, value-added, or enterprise as such. Instead, constitutionally correct public finance would get revenues from user fees, from compensation for causing a social cost such as pollution, and from the economic market rent of natural resources, including land or site value.
With elections in the USA taking place in November, now is the time to contact your candidates for all levels of government, from city council to the U.S. Congress. Tell them what the US 9th Amendments states, and the relevant statement in the State constitution, which you can look up in the Internet. Ask them what limits they think these constitutional provisions place on legislation. Ask if they agree this prohibits arbitrary restrictions and costs on peaceful and honest action.
Most likely, the candidates will not have an answer. Nobody has ever asked them such questions! I suggest not voting for a candidate that does not respond to this query. If a candidate does respond, even to say this is a good question, and he or she will think about it, this would indicate that this candidate should be well regarded, but we need to follow through. If a candidate agrees with these constitutional limits, then I say, that candidate deserves your vote.
Imagine if many voters asked these questions and they were discussed in newspapers, radio, TV, and the Internet. What a profound influence that would have on our laws and policies. So this is something you can do, that can make a big difference. Seek to understand your constitutions and their recognitions of natural rights, and then query your candidates. Tell others about this. I'm not saying anything new, but only pointing out what's already in our constitutions!
So ask the candidates for office, are the constitutions of the USA and of our States useless documents just there for show, or will we respect them as the foundations for our laws and policies? If these mean anything, then we need to make sure our candidates and office holders understand them and then repeal all laws that don't conform. The question is, will we have the true rule of law, or will we have rule by the whims of men who are clueless about our fundamental constitutional rights?
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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